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Iowa Senate Approves Anti-bullying Bill

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) Lawmakers in the Iowa Senate have approved a measure aimed at establishing more anti-bullying efforts in schools across the state.

The Democratic-majority Senate narrowly cleared the bill Tuesday in a straight party-line vote, 26-19. The legislation now goes to the Republican-controlled House, where lawmakers are wrangling with a similar measure.

The bill is meant to help schools better address bullying. But Sen. David Johnson, a Republican from Ocheyedan, says the proposal falls short in its effort to ensure student safety. Sen. Robert Hogg, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids who sponsored the bill, argues Republicans are neglecting to consider the well-being of children by refusing their support of the measure.

"What the students have told us is most important, is to be clear that the schools have authority to address off-school conduct that creates an on-school effect," said Hogg, in a phone interview Tuesday.

Sen. Hogg, who is floor managing the bill, said it updates a law passed back in 2007. In its current form, Sen. Hogg said it would provide Iowa schools with $1,000,000 for anti-bullying training.

"It provides for training for school administrators, investigators, and teachers on how to recognize how to investigate and how to handle incidents of bullying and harassment in our schools."

That's something Cedar Rapids Community School administrators have been doing for some time now, but the district's executive manager of learning support Paul Hayes said this bill would give them more latitude when investigating reports of bullying or harassment.

"If something occurs, whether it's via cell phones, Facebook, any of those kinds of things, administrators will look at that and depending on the source, and depending on the anticipated impact of that in the building, they will act accordingly," Hayes explained.

Hayes said when it comes to bullying, the district isn't currently powerless. But by having a more clearly-defined law, he says that can only make their jobs easier.

"I think it'll be a tool that supports what we have in place currently," Hayes said.

Cracking down on bullying has been a priority for Gov. Terry Branstad this session.

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